Toddler separation and independence 

As your child reaches the toddler years you'll start to notice that they're becoming more independent and like to try doing things for themselves. They start to understand that they're their own person and are separate from you. 

When left with someone else or when you're not around, they may become upset or unsettled. 

As they become aware that you're both separate people and that you're not always around when returning to work or popping out, they may become clingier and more anxious. 

Please don't let this stop you having respite for self-care or going out to work. Ask for help or support where you can. 

There are things you can do to help you and your child feel more comfortable and happier when you're apart.

Tips for creating an independent toddler

  • From a young age, attend playgroups and ‘stay and play groups’ as this will help your child socialise and create a reassuring environment. 
  • Meet up with other families and children; visiting the park and play centres will help your toddler to learn skills such as turn taking and feeling confident with other children. 
  • Your health visitor will be able to advise you of parent and toddler play groups or children’s centres that offer ‘stay and play’ or toddler groups within your area.
  • Build their trust and confidence that you will return to pick them up. 
  • Ask a trusted familiar family member or friend to look after our toddler for short intervals and then return. This will help prepare them for starting nursery or pre-school. 
  • Try not to sneak out; tell them you're coming back, you'll see them soon, say goodbye and give them comfort. Toddlers have no concept of time so any amount will feel a long time, but building it up slowly can help you and them. 
  • Be honest about who is collecting them, explain to them what's happening and stick to this as it will help to build trust and resilience. 
  • Children know when we're sad, so even if you're finding it hard to leave them, hold it back, smile and wave until you get outside. 

Leaving your little one for the first time

It's very common to feel anxious and nervous leaving your toddler for the first time. Be reassured that the staff of nursery and pre-school are there to comfort, reassure and distract your child from feeling sad. 

Most pre-schools offer a transition where you visit with your child. Use these visits to demonstrate a good relationship with the nursery staff in front of your child, this helps with the relationship between your child and nursery. 

Take time to explain your child’s likes and dislikes, how they like to play and sleep etc. Try bringing in a comforter from home, this can help your child with settling into their new surroundings.

Collecting your child 

When picking up your child, be positive and ask about their day. Talk about their friends and the adults that care for them, the foods they have had and what they have played with, this helps to reassure them and make their experience positive. 

Encouraging your child to express their feelings can help with understanding any anxieties they may have and help you to reassure them or build upon making the transition easier, this will also support their emotional health and development as they grow.